Jean Kindratsky and Ali Lupu are two of the creators featured in our latest anthology, Welcome to Mina’s. Jean loves to make comics that share imaginings, experiences and recipes. She keeps two fine hens, one large cat and a garden overrun with flowers, fruit and morning glory.. Ali grew up just a short bus ride outside Vancouver during a time when there was no immunization towards superhero comic books. He has always had a great appreciation for animated movies, abstract art and generally good storytelling. I sat down with them [virtually] to get some insight into comics, diners, and the creative process.
Kathleen: What was the inspiration behind your story for this anthology?
Ali: My inspiration for the visuals of this story were classic comic books. It’s a very long time since I drew comic books as a kid – so in a way I was interested in seeing if I could wrap my hand around the clean line style, spotting blacks and attempting to tell this story as visually compelling as possible. I wouldn’t say I was inspired by any one artist, but being my first published work – I think I more or less leaned into the idea of printed comics from a romanced period.
Jean: During EXPO ’86, I worked at an enormous bus depot on the edge of Chinatown, where we welcomed guests to the world’s fair in the mornings and made sure they got on the right bus home in the evenings. One day, two older ladies arrived hours early for their buses. I suggested they take a walk through Chinatown…
That was the easy answer. The truthful answer is that I miss my friend, Pepper Malone. She savour her after dinner cigarette as much as the meal that preceded it. She died in 2014. I feel very lucky to be one of her circle of friends that has inherited each other. We still text each other momentous events that would have made her day. Like finding a quarter. Or a dime. Even a nickel.
We revolve and connect around the empty space she’s left behind.
The thing is, that space is specific to her.
And it’s not really empty. It holds all the contradictions and bon mots and joys that came from knowing her. And that’s where the story found it’s heart. In an empty place at the table.
K: How did the two of you come to collaborate?
A: Jean and I started this project 100% prompted by her. The heart of this project definitely lies with Jean – the story is 100% hers. I was like the director/ DOP on the project – happy to be a part of it – it was a wonderful way to connect with comics again.
J: We met at the Cloudscape Wednesday meetings, ended up sitting beside each other and chatted a few times. Ali struck me as someone very open and honest, who is anchored by a philosophical gravitas that I really enjoy. I asked if he would be interested in drawing two tired ladies recovering from a long day at the World’s Fair (which, if I haven’t mentioned it, was EXPO ’86). I’m so happy that he said yes!
K: What is your favourite part of the creative process?
A: Favourite part of the creative process is surely in the creating! I loved developing the look of the characters, and when that was done – page layouts and panel compositions are what kept my engaged.
J: Going for coffee with Ali was my favourite part of the creative process behind making this story. When this pandemic is over, I hope we can meet again. We dipped into philosophy and the meaning of life. He asked unexpected questions and I had to dig deep to find the answers. It was a pleasure to have those conversations and spiral closer and closer to the story that emerged.
K: What’s your go-to diner order?
A: Go-to diner order for breakfast is the eggs and hash, but for dinner Chicken and Waffles is hard to beat.
J: Breakfast. Any time of day. Crispy bacon, basted eggs, brown toast. If they don’t do an all-day breakfast, a BLT will do!
K: This anthology is set in Vancouver. What’s your connection to the city? How would you describe the city to an outsider?
A: My relationship with the city has been an ever evolving one. Right now – I couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else. Vancouver has this quality that is hard to put into words. It can feel like a fortress of solitude in some ways, but it’s really dynamic and growing and for the last 10 years has gone through a lot of change.
J: Growing up in a lumber town on Vancouver Island, we thought that Vancouver was the promised land. When I moved here in 1986, it was specifically to work at EXPO’86. It was a pretty big deal at the time. Every time you walked across the (then brand spanking new) Cambie Street bridge, you came eye to eye with a colossal sculpture of Yuri Gagarin, the Russian Cosmonaut. You’d know if you were late because there was an enormous Swatch watch keeping time. Those things are gone, but I love having the memory colour my perception of the city.
I feel like Vancouver is a very small town; everything I need is nearby, I know my neighbours, I can walk to work. But all the strange, unusual, specific possibilities are here too. Taxidermy classes, comics workshops, foods not found in my mother’s pantry…the possibilities are endless.
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If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the Welcome to Mina’s KICKSTARTER!